Research of the Experimental Zoology Group

Mission: To unravel the relationships between form and function in zoological systems in a developmental and evolutionary context and to provide bioinspired solutions for technological and medical problems.

Animals are complex mechanical systems that behave, develop, and evolve on multiple timescales. Understanding their structure and function requires interdisciplinary quantitative analyses that span a range of temporal and architectural scales. In return, such analyses reveal unexpected design strategies and solutions as developed by natural selection. Reverse engineering of these solutions can help to solve similar problems of societal relevance.

Zebrafish (wt) - 48 hours post fertilisation
Zebrafish (wt) - 48 hours post fertilisation

Our current main research area is the biomechanics of motion systems in vertebrates and insects, with three complementary research lines (figure 1):

Figure 1: The primary research field of EZO is biomechanics in a zoological context. We develop fundamental knowledge on animal flight, fish swimming and for biomimetic solutions  to animal and human health problems (the main research lines).
Figure 1: The primary research field of EZO is biomechanics in a zoological context. We develop fundamental knowledge on animal flight, fish swimming and for biomimetic solutions to animal and human health problems (the main research lines).

(1) Biomechanics of animal flight (PI: Florian Muijres), including the biofluid dynamics of avian and insect flight and in-flight host detection of malaria mosquitoes.

(2) Biomechanics of fish swimming (PIs: Johan van Leeuwen, Martin Lankheet, Bart Pollux, Sander Gussekloo), including swimming and developmental mechanics in larval fish, fin propulsion, visuo-motor-system development and effects of a livebearing reproductive strategy on swimming performance. This research line also includes developmental mechanics of bones and muscles, linking bone remodelling to molecular regulation.

(3) Bioinspired design solutions for human health (PIs: Johan van Leeuwen, Sander Gussekloo), including development of steerable needles (inspired by the ovipositor biomechanics in parasitic wasps), and gentle grippers for delicate human tissues (inspired by wet adhesion of toe-pads in tree frogs).

Our research is not exclusively restricted to these lines because our quantitative and deductive approach provides unique opportunities to tackle a range of important problems, such as biomechanics of tongues and sensors.

More information about our chair group can also be found on this Research page of the Wageningen University & Research.

Current Research Lines
Lines Projects Student topics
Biomechanics of animal flight Biomechanics of mosquito flight (Veni project F.T. Muijres) Effect of varrao infestation on flight performance of honeybees (MSc project of H. Lugt)
Force and power production in honeybees infected by varroa (MSc project V.M.M ten Cate)
In-flight host detection of malaria mosquitoes (M. Lankheet and J.L. van Leeuwen) Evaluating in vivo contractile function of the guinea fowl lateral gastocnemius across locomotor tasks (MSc Internship of J.A. van Erp at the Harvard University (Prof. Biewener))
Aerodynamics of mosquito flight (PhD project W.G. van Veen)
How to catch a mosquito? The flight response of mosquitoes to odors and air gusts produced by odor-baited traps (PhD project A. Cribellier)
To be as nimble as a bee: A bio-inspired sensory-motor system for gust control of Micro Air Vehicles. (PhD project P. Goyal)
Bumblebees in the spotlight (PhD project L. de Vries)
Biomechanics of fish swimming Developmental biomechanics of axial muscle structure and activity patterns in larval zebrafish (PhD project of N.M.M.E. van Meer)
Visuo-motor-control in juvenile fish (M.J.M. Lankheet)
the Evolution of fish placentas Evolutionary ecology of placentation and superfetation in livebearing fish (Vidi project B.J.A. Pollux)
Molecular Ecology/Sexual Selection (PhD project M.L. Dekker)
Functional advantage of the Placenta and Superfetation in Live-bearing Fish (PhD project A. Hagmayer)
How does a placenta evolve? Insights from comparative genome analysis within the livebearing fish family Poeciliidae. (PhD project H. van Kruistum)
How does the evolution of placentation influence the mechanisms which drive transgenerational phenotypic plasticity? Understanding the evolution of maternal effects in the live-bearing fish family Poeciliidae (PhD project T.R. Ernst)
Bioinspired design solutions for human health Biological models for soft robotics (PostDoc project J.K.A. Langowski) Behavioural aspects of tree frog attachment (MSc Thesis of L. Verbeek)
Biomechanics of adhesion in wet and structured environments (PostDoc project of G.J. Amador)
Ultra-thin steerable needle for solid-organ interventions (S.W.S. Gussekloo)
Undulatory fish swimming of seahorses as an inspiration of under-water vehicles (PhD project S. Henrion)
Miscellaneous Modelling the effects of electrical pulse stimulation on marine fishes and invertebrates (PhD project P.G. Boute) Behaviour of (non-)electroreceptive fishes in response to electrical stimulation (internship K. Smid) (in progress) (in collaboration with HAS Hogeschool)
Effect of muscle growth dynamics on nutritional requirements of Nile tilapia (PhD project G. Konnert)
Muscle mechanics (J.L. van Leeuwen) Screening compounds using the zebrafish/larva assay (MSc Internship of N.C. van Duijvenvoorde at the Universiteit Leiden (Prof. M.K. Richardson))